A Christian minister asked a really interesting question on Twitter just now: he notes ‘that Jesus is portrayed as referring to God as Father roughly 170 times while the OT does only about 11’. What are we to make of this, he asks? I suggested a take on this question he may not have considered before. Geoff Holsclaw is a minister and seminary professor of theology in the US.
Professor of New Testament studies, James D. G. Dunn, in his book The Evidence For Jesus gives a statistical table showing how the early church remembered only a very few occasions in which Jesus spoke of God as ‘Father’ (just 3 such utterances in Mark). Yet in the later gospels (especially Matthew and John) we can see a huge inflation and expansion of the number of such sayings.
It is fair to conclude that we cannot take John’s reported testimony on this point as firm evidence of what Jesus actually said about himself. It represents a much later theological development.